Huge circle in an Antarctic ice shelf hints meteor impact
Researchers in East Antarctica think a massive area of fractured ice discovered last month could be the site of a meteorite impact crater. The area is more than one mile-wide, and described as a circular "scar in the ice," a noticeable patch in the otherwise smooth section of Antarctica's King Baudouin Ice Shelf.
On December 20th geophysicist Christian Müller and a team of scientists with the Alfred Wegener Institute were doing a routine survey of the ice shelf from an airplane when they spotted the unusual formation.
The possible impact crater is about twice the size of Arizona's Barringer Meteor Crater which is a mere three quarters of a mile wide. That crater was formed more than 50 thousand years ago, but Muller and his team think this one may be much newer.
Scientist are looking at two separate studies that support the idea of a "house-sized meteor" creating the crater as recently as 2004.
A 2007 study done by American and Canadian researchers found that a large object likely fell to Earth near the King Baudouin Ice Shelf in 2004. Another study from scientists at Australia's Davis station observed a dust trail in the atmosphere consistent with a trail left by a falling meteor. The point of impact, however, was never discovered until possibly now.
While current evidence suggests a possible meteorite impact site, Muller and his team have more research to do. The team plans on drilling into ice shelf to see if there is further evidence of a meteorite impact. No matter what they find, the discovery is a "very unusual find."
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